“Yes,” he said. “Been up most of th’ night. Difficult! Difficult!”
“It’s all right, I hope?”
“Oh yes. Fine child! Fine child! But he put his mother to some trouble, for all that. Nothing fresh?” This time he lifted his eyes to indicate Mr. Baines’s bedroom.
“No,” said Mrs. Baines, with a different expression.
“Good! A very good morning to you.”
He strode off towards his house, which was lower down the street.
“I hope she’ll turn over a new leaf now,” observed Mrs. Baines to Constance as she closed the door. Constance knew that her mother was referring to the confectioner’s wife; she gathered that the hope was slight in the extreme.
“What did you want to speak to me about, mother?” she asked, as a way out of her delicious confusion.
“Shut that door,” Mrs. Baines replied, pointing to the door which led to the passage; and while Constance obeyed, Mrs. Baines herself shut the staircase-door. She then said, in a low, guarded voice—
“What’s all this about Sophia wanting to be a school-teacher?”
“Wanting to be a school-teacher?” Constance repeated, in tones of amazement.
“Yes. Hasn’t she said anything to you?”
“Not a word!”
“Well, I never! She wants to keep on with Miss Chetwynd and be a teacher.” Mrs. Baines had half a mind to add that Sophia had mentioned London. But she restrained herself. There are some things which one cannot bring one’s self to say. She added, “Instead of going into the shop!”
“I never heard of such a thing!” Constance murmured brokenly, in the excess of her astonishment. She was rolling up Mr. Povey’s tape-measure.
“Neither did I!” said Mrs. Baines.
“And shall you let her, mother?”
“Neither your father nor I would ever dream of it!” Mrs. Baines replied, with calm and yet terrible decision. “I only mentioned it to you because I thought Sophia would have told you something.”
As Constance put Mr. Povey’s tape-measure neatly away in its drawer under the cutting-out counter, she thought how serious life was—what with babies and Sophias. She was very proud of her mother’s confidence in her; this simple pride filled her ardent breast with a most agreeable commotion. And she wanted to help everybody, to show in some way how much she sympathized with and loved everybody. Even the madness of Sophia did not weaken her longing to comfort Sophia.
That afternoon there was a search for Sophia, whom no one had seen since dinner. She was discovered by her mother, sitting alone and unoccupied in the drawing-room. The circumstance was in itself sufficiently peculiar, for on weekdays the drawing-room was never used, even by the girls during their holidays, except for the purpose of playing the piano. However, Mrs. Baines offered no comment on Sophia’s geographical situation, nor on her idleness.